10. Dr. Cozy Carlisle in Dead Again
9. Jack Powell in Jack
8. Daniel Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire
7. Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam
6. Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society
Again, many focus on the humor he brought to the role, but the best part is when he sees the good brought out in his students. Look at his performance in the final scene and how little he speaks and has to communicate with his eyes. It is great.
5. Walter Finch in Insomnia
This was such a break from all of his other roles. I would never have cast Williams in this part as it didn't allow for his usual improv skills. But what was genius about the casting is that Williams conveyed a gentleness to his killer that defined him. Finch was someone who was so impotent in the world and in people's eyes that he snapped and acted in a way no one could foresee.
4. Parry in The Fisher King
This role took Williams zaniness and let it boil over into full-blown madness. Most of Williams' great performances come from directors focusing his energy into a precise character. Here, director Terry Gilliam simply pushes Williams to the extreme until he explodes on the screen like a hand grenade. He holds nothing back and the performance is like one, long, manic howl.
3. Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo
This is the most chameleon-like Williams ever became. He disappears completely into this role so that it is difficult to recognize him. Like his character in Insomnia, he is all rage. But unlike that character Seymour, or "Sy" is so desperate for love and affection that his loneliness causes us more sympathy than repulsion despite the fact that he ends up doing vile things.
2. Dr. Malcolm Sayer in Awakenings
This is a character who is hiding. Hiding from the world, hiding from life, hiding behind his bushy beard and glasses. Williams had to layer his character with layers of emotional armor to hide his loneliness. He was so cripplingly shy that in a way he is less alive than his patients. Williams restrains himself so well in this movie that you want to reach in and nurture that spark you know is just below the surface.
1. Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting
The role that won him the Oscar is truly his best. It merges all of the best elements of his dramatic and comedic skills. He never goes to far in "performing" comedy. All of the comedy comes from a grounded place of truth. All of the drama comes the wounded nature of his character. His first scene with Will is a fantastic example of expertly moving from character beats. Watch as he goes from nervous counselor to a one-handed choke hold. And none of it rings false. And who could forget that amazing monologue that holds you by the power that could only come from Robin Williams (warning: vulgar language below)